By on May 17, 2010

Honda hasn’t always replaced its bread-and-butter compact, the Civic, every five years. The Mk.1 Civic soldiered from 1972 until 1979. The second through fifth generations were replaced on a regular four-year schedule, before Honda settled into a five-year product cadence with the sixth generation (1996-2000). If it were to keep with that cadence, we’d be seeing a ninth-generation Civic sometime this year, replacing the Mk.VIII, which debuted in late 2005. According to Automotive News [sub], however, Honda is holding off on releasing a new Civic until 2011. What gives?

American Honda’s Executive VP John Mendel explains… sort of:

In general, we are not changing cycles. We change vehicles as need be. The ability to do something based on more current information is better than waiting a full model cycle. Some of that is being able to have the opportunity to change [based on] what you see happening in the marketplace.

But behind the confused corporate jibber-jabber lies a far more reassuring sign: according to Honda’s COO Tsuneo Tanai, the Mk.IX Civic was supposed to be larger than the current model, but was redesigned to be close to the current model’s size “mid-stream,” causing the delay. Breaking product cadence might seem a bit un-Honda, but its vehicles were also growing to distinctly un-Honda-like sizes as well. Sometimes you have to break one tradition to bring back another.

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48 Comments on “Honda Breaks Stride, Delays Civic Redesign...”


  • avatar

    I am very happy they are not making it bigger. It really needn’t be. Next go round maybe they can shrink the Accord a bit, like Nissan did with the Altima.

  • avatar
    Ion

    Didn’t they already delay the Civic to downsize it? I guess it’s real fortunate for Honda that the Civic is one of the best in it’s class…..for now.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    I don’t think the delay will hurt Honda; the Civic is one of the few truly distinctive cars, and still looks fresh. (Compare it to the me-too Accord, which looks from a distance like a host of other style-cliche cars.) In fact, I’ve wondered at times how the Civic’s styling could be tweaked or improved, given how complete and coherent the exterior is. From this report of a new, larger Civic being in the works, it seems Honda might have been about to screw up a good thing — an act that would be consistent with Honda/Acura’s numerous design blunders of the past few years.

    One vehicle which could stand to be a bit larger is the Element, and, in view of its flaws, it has been languishing for too many years without a re-do. A little more size and it would be truly useful. Make it long enough to put my bikes in the back without taking the wheels off and I’ll probably buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      Good suggestion for the Element. In a marketplace turning from full size SUVs to more nimble crossovers and CUVs, a redesigned Element can offer true utility for a lot of people.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      “Make it long enough to put my bikes in the back without taking the wheels off and I’ll probably buy one.”

      Then go get one! There’s absolutely no problem putting bikes in the back of the Element (upright even) as the rear seats hinge upwards and hang from the grab handles. The problem with the Element is that it only carries things like bikes and furniture well, there’s no place to put smaller stuff like groceries without scattering them all across the interior. Absolutely get the manual, as the auto is a crap 80′s era embarassment, but avoid this car if you live on dirt roads, as debris can and will get caught in the rear rotors necessitating frequent replacement. Honda is aware of this problem and mostly ignores it (we only got one free rear rotor replacement out of warranty).

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      The Element does need a refresh but I don’t think it needs to be bigger. I had one for several years and drove on gravel / mud / sand and except for getting stuck one time in some deep mud it got to where I needed to go. The gas tank needs to be relocated so they can take that protection bar to prevent it from easily high siding. I never had any rear rotor problems. I’ve also driven and auto and had no problems with it. The transmission maybe a 4 speed but it is not 1980′s technology and was a new design in the mid 90′s when Honda came out with the k series 2.4 liter motors.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    I’m not sure if this is good news or bad news, but I’m very concerned about Honda recently.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Agreed. But if Honda feels that product bloat is a concern, well, they are on the track to redemption. I think that people have forgotten what a treat light weight is, in and of itself. When I switch between my ’09 and my modified and well maintained ’92, you can feel the heft of the modern car. Yeah, the structure is much stiffer and it feels far more substantial, but hit some curves and all that heft becomes immediately apparent, and not in a good way.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      I would say bad news.
      4 year product cycles to gain market share, 5 year product cycles to maintain market share (if the product is a good one), more than 5 years and your product is stale and will loose sales of current Civic owners looking for something new.

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    The Civic is one of the last reasonably attractive Honda vehicles left — everything else is just ugly.

    Hopefully the “redesign” will spare the Civic a beating with the ugly stick.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      That’s interesting, considering how many thought it was the ugliest car on earth in 2005.

      It just goes to show that, in most cases, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. And we’ve beheld a lot in the last half-decade.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe the Civic just looks better and better as Honda releases newer models. ;)

      Seriously though, the Civic coupe is very nice looking. The sedan is distinctive.

    • 0 avatar
      hurls

      I’ve found that for me personally, the outgoing generation of Honda is always made good looking by the following. Same applies to Acura. In fact, in the case of Acura I thought that the Gen 2 TSX was horrendous right up until I saw the Gen 3 TL :)

      The Civic is probably not a car in my future, but as a former CRX driver, I’d love to see honda do something in the smaller/lighter vein with the Civic. Something that’s not a Fit-eque box on wheels.

      yeah yeah, and some Euro diesels , station wagons and RS euro focii too :) And only manual trannies.

      Still, a fella can wish, right?

    • 0 avatar
      mythicalprogrammer

      @psarhjinian

      I actually thought it was good looking in coupe version. The sedan version is ugly. The design is dated now.

    • 0 avatar
      jacksonbart

      The current Civic ain’t got no alibi, its ugly too. A good commuter car, butt ugly. Last generation was better looking.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    …but its vehicles were also growing to distinctly un-Honda-like sizes as well

    Sigh…

    About my only complaint with TTAC, other than the logo, is the periodic Honda-greybeard baiting.

    You can still by a small, sporty Honda: it’s called the Fit. You can buy a medium-sized Honda: the Civic. What you can do now that you couldn’t do ten or twenty years ago is buy a large Honda (the Accord).

    If it really bothers you that the Accord is so large, buy a Civic, pry off the nameplate, and stick an Accord badge on it.

    Honda could keep it’s line-up the same size as it was in the 1980s. The problem is that they’d have the sales volumes they had in the 1980s as well. More than likely they’d also have suffered the kind of fate that befell Isuzu and Suzuki and nearly claimed Mazda and Nissan.

    They’ve done a good job of growing organically, and they still offer a car for just about every commercially-viable taste. There’s a serious product-planning malfunction at Acura, but “bloat” is not really the problem people think it is.

    Related note: it’s good that Honda’s doing this, in a way, but the Civic may have problems vis a vis packaging and marketability. The Fit already offers more space for people and stuff and better mileage in city all at a lower price, so whither the Civic? Growing it slightly might not have been a bad move, given that there’s not a lot of difference between it and the Fit, but a hell of a lot of space between it and the Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      It is true that the the Civic and the Accord have grown over the years.

      Here is some comparison info gleaned from Edmunds

      Accord
      Length 194.1 in.
      Wheel Base 110.2 in.
      Weight 3583 lbs.

      Civic
      Length 177.3 in.
      Wheel Base 106.3 in.
      Weight 2687 lbs.

      Fit
      Length 161.6 in.
      Wheel Base 98.4 in.
      Weight 2489 lbs.

      The Civic really is quite a bit smaller than than the Accord, but the Fit is almost as much smaller than the Civic (16 in. len 8 in WB) as the Civic is than the Accord (16 in len, 4 in WB). Note that the Fit is not proportionately lighter.

      The Accord is a big car. Not as big as the German Luxo Barges like the S550, the 745iL, and the A8, which average 10 in longer and 1000 lbs heavier. Nor is it as big as the Brontosaurus era Detroit iron which were 18 to 30 in longer. It is edging up into territory now occupied by the Taurus and the Lacrosse, both of which are a little larger 4 — 6 in and 500 lbs heavier.

      On the other hand the vehicle that is marketed in Japan and Europe as the Accord comes to the US as the Acura TSX:

      TSX
      Length 185.6 in.
      Wheel Base 106.6 in.
      Weight 3400 lbs.

      By way of comparison to that, I give my 2002 Accord LX V6 sedan:

      2002 Accord V6
      Length: 189.4 in.
      Wheel Base: 106.9 in.
      Curb Weight: 3274 lbs.

      My own take is that they need to produce the Fit in some more body types, e.g. 4 dr sedan, 2 door coupe etc.

      I think that the Civic is in a good slot but that the current American Accord is too big to be a good mid-sized car and not big enough to be a big car. If they want to move the Accord into big car territory, they should make it several inches longer, but then there will be a hole in the line up between the Civic and the Accord which will need something like the TSX to fill it. Another possibility is that they could shrink the current Accord a couple of inches down to TSX size and introduce a new large car, perhaps as a top of the line Acura.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Two points:
      * One, the Fit’s internal dimensions and useful space are closer to, or in some cases, outright exceed, those of the Civic.
      * The Accord can weigh as little as 3200lbs, or less than the Jetta or Regal and waaaaay less than the (more cramped) Lacrosse or Taurus. You’re quoting the full-bore EX-L version. I don’t think a full-size car that weighs less than a German compact and comes with a stick is really “bloated”.

      I think we have to take practical space into account when considering these vehicles. By that metric, Honda isn’t doing too badly.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Lemming

      psarhjinian, your point is well taken, but it doesn’t quite solve my problem. Essentially I need a contemporary version of the late-80s Civic tall wagon. The Fit doesn’t quite offer the room that I need, and the CRV is too tall and heavy. I wish Honda would keep the Civic at its current size, beef up the gas mileage a bit and offer a wagon version.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The Fit doesn’t quite offer the room that I need

      I find that hard to believe. I own one: it has more cargo and passenger space (ignoring width) than my 2002 Saab 9-3 had.

      With the seats up, there’s 20 cubic feet back there; with the down, nearly 60, or about on par with the old Focus wagon and more than most compact wagons (3-Series, A4) and a few small crossovers. And I can, with some discomfort, sit behind myself. I couldn’t do this in my Saab and can’t do it in the current Civic.

      The Versa has more space for people, but loses a pile of cargo space; the Civic (and the Insight and Matrix) don’t come close. About the only vehicles I’ve seen that can outpoint the Fit at and around this price point are the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo.

      I don’t think people realize how much of a TARDIS the Fit is.

      A Civic wagon would be nice, I agree, but you’d have to raise the roof of such a vehicle to get it near the Fit’s useful space, at which point we’re into something that looks like the Rondo, and isn’t, I think, what people are looking for.

    • 0 avatar

      @ psarhjinian:

      If I remember right, your Fit is the 06-08 model, correct? I’ve been looking for a successor to my ’97 Impreza for mostly-solo commuter but occasional family duty (3+1 pending). Child seats being the size that they are (esp. rear-facing) I’m not sure I can convince myself that we’d all fit into an RX-8, although we’re not especially tall folks (5’10″), so the Fit is also a thought.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      psarhinian

      I am one of the earlier…and still am…Civic design critics.
      I actually like the futuristic window and silhouette, but from the rear it looks extremely large and I cannot take that dash. I cannot get used to numbers being up near the window and always catching/diverting my eyes.

      However, unlike many, I do like the Accord’s looks. I find it a nice mix of aggression and conservative at the same time.
      Not a big fan of the Crosstour!!!
      Front or rear.

      Now I know you like the Fit.
      But it must be only me that sees a strange looking van/something.
      Directly from the front it looks good.
      But that profile!
      There is just something about the dimensions that seem weird.
      Sorry, I forgot you own one!!!!
      I mean, its like a minivan, without the real size and function. Why did you buy it, say over a Sienna or such?
      Is the MPG that big of a deal when you need the functionality of a minivan?
      Cost?

      Its function, not form.

      Looking forward….

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Now I know you like the Fit.
      But it must be only me that sees a strange looking van/something.
      Directly from the front it looks good.
      But that profile!
      There is just something about the dimensions that seem weird.
      Sorry, I forgot you own one!!!!
      I mean, its like a minivan, without the real size and function. Why did you buy it, say over a Sienna or such?
      Is the MPG that big of a deal when you need the functionality of a minivan?
      Cost?

      I actually own a 2006 Sienna, and the Fit is not even remotely competitive. I don’t mean this in a good or bad way, just that it’s very, very different. The Fit is much smaller and nearly half the Sienna’s weight. I got it because it really is very versatile: I took a look at the Civic and, other than ride sophistication, I couldn’t really justify a bigger, longer, more expensive car that has much less interior room. That it’s reasonably fun to drive is a nice bonus.

      For the record, I found the same when I looked at other subcompacts: I just don’t see the value in a compact—especially a compact sedan—when there’s no appreciable gain in useful space.

      Calling the Fit a mini-minivan is very accurate: it has a faily high roof and a very, very low floor and the rear is abruptly truncated, rather than allowed to slope. It has the same function-over-form ethos. I like that: it’s honest and, when I’ve needed it, it’s been able to get the job done. I loaded a pair of 7U servers and a pile of racking gear into the back of it recently; something I could not have done in an Accord.

      I like functional vehicles, by the way, and I can live with styling that’s odd to look at as long as it doesn’t prove inconvenient—a word I wouldn’t use to describe the little Honda.

      My only real complaint is that it has profoundly stupid gearing: it turns 3500rpm at highway speed, which is nuts. Honda gave it a stupidly low final drive, probably to make it feel quick. I can understand first being short, but you can pull away in third and I spend most of my time (at 50km/h) in 4th or 5th. That’s not right.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    The other reason they cited for the delay is to increase fuel efficiency. Luckily for Honda this is one that they can afford to leave on the vine for a little longer. I’m glad that they aren’t making it bigger, because the Fit doesn’t offer a coupe body style, and the current Civic is the biggest car that I would possibly buy. My questions for the next gen Civic: 1. Will the Si continue? (Seems like Honda wants to purge all performance from the brand) 2. Will the gauges go back to a traditional design? 3. Will the coupe be on a shorter wheelbase? (Hopefully) 4. Can we get some AC and painted door handles on the DX? (Please)

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Some of Honda’s most recently released re-designed haven’t really resulted in a better product. Slowing down and making sure that “new” is really “better” is a smart move. The current Civic does what it does very well. Odds are that a redesign would actually detract from the vehicle.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    surely companies should redesign their cars when the competition has moved on and made their offering look unappealing?

    the civic seems to be selling itself quite well so what does it matter if the new one is 1 yr late?

  • avatar

    Honda already makes a 4-door Fit, the City.

    It’s a small sedan that offers the same incredibly good seat space as the Fit and has a huge 500 liter boot, to boot.

    The Civic is a great case of “ain’t broke, don’t fix”. The first generation Fit was the same. In fact, most of the problems of the first generation Fit, the NVH and power, could have been fixed without upsizing the car.

    At this point, where customer focus is more on economy and green issues, it’s a good idea for Honda to pull back on the model bloat. It’s only recently that the competition have finally left behind the Civic in terms of interior space, with the new Lancer and the Chevrolet Cruze, but these two cars are pretty big and heavy, and economy suffers in comparison. Honda, on the other hand, is one of the few (okay… one of two) manufacturers who manages to make their car perform as well as the competition with smaller displacement mills.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    Funny how gave GM hell for its dustbuster shaped minivans but love the Civic. Sorry folks this is not an attractive car at all. Not five years ago not today. For the record for all the coping Kia did their Forte doesnt look much better.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Most people didn’t really mind the way the dustbusters looked.

      GM tried to spin cosmetics as the problem to avoid dealing with the generally wretched mechanicals that underpinned them.

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      Dustbuster vans got a bad rap for being deathtraps.

      http://www.autosafety.org/pontiac-trans-sport

      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://i.ytimg.com/vi/k01OWycYTig/0.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.dipity.com/timeline/Gm-Pontiac/list&usg=__g9IhP6-cQ1Coiwl6VYDJrb5Fv4k=&h=360&w=480&sz=14&hl=en&start=5&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=siiJ7Pnapv5l4M:&tbnh=97&tbnw=129&prev=/images%3Fq%3DGM%2BMINIVAN%2BCRASH%2BTEST%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26tbs%3Disch:1

  • avatar
    mythicalprogrammer

    The civic failed cause they took away the double-wish bone suspension. I just googled and found that they only did that in Europe. Weird!

    I’m guessing Ford, Hyundai, and Kia’s rival models is giving Honda second thoughts about their design. I think the Civic is their bread and butter? Gotta make sure they keep it up. Cause the Acura models sure as hell ain’t going anywhere –they do look better if you paint the grill black though.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I know that many people fault Honda for going away from wish bone suspension, but really, MacPherson struts are good enough for a BMW M3, but not good enough for a Civc?

      Seriously, this is purely a bench racing concern.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      As above, the struts aren’t really a problem. They still wouldn’t be, had Honda fans not made such a huge deal of them.

      Other points:
      * Front struts aren’t reason that the seventh-gen Civic was so unremarkable. That has everything to do with Honda reconciling a move to the mass-market with badly-handled cost-cutting. The Corolla of this era sucked, too.
      * The European Civic has the same front struts as the North American model. What differentiates it is the rear suspension, which is a torsion beam in the European model** similar to the Fit’s. This lets it use a version of the Fit’s Magic Seat system.

      ** who says the Europeans get the better chassis? Not in this case.

  • avatar
    tedward

    The civic badly needs an update, the gearshift is best in class, but the auto version isn’t competitive, like most Honda automatics. The interior might very well be worst in class by the end of the year, and it isn’t as much fun to drive as the (hugely bigger inside) Fit.

    The Si 4 door on the other hand is a true gem, not anywhere near as nice as the speed3 or GTI inside, or as fast as either, but still the most fun to drive drive car in it’s class. I couldn’t buy one all the same based on the lack of utility and the cheap interior, and the fact that the turbo powertrains of the real competition aren’t worse than the Si’s screamer engine, just different.

    Having recently driven basically everything in this class I’d say that the Civic si still resides above the Corolla and the Forte, but below the 3 and Golf (best in class, every trim). The base Civic is basically a wash, and I’d rather have the nicer and better appointed Kia even, and definitely the Fit (which I ended up with).

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    The Fit is one of the most Honda-like vehicles Honda has produced.
    Space and fuel efficient and, of course, well made and reliable.

    Designers have more freedom when creating a true space wagon since they are not shackled with sporty styling limitations. They can maximize interior space and visibility without needing to scallop the sides, lower the roof line and widen center consoles.

    This in turn, frees up other cars in the lineup to be sporty and cool.
    The Fit’s rational design lets the Civic design be more emotional.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      There you have it.
      I think you answered my year long question as to why people buy the Fit, or why it was designed…pure function.
      If not, I don’t get this car.
      It’s more for local pizza delivery than the love of driving.
      WHY?

      Because cars, to ME, have always been an expression of one’s style and taste…NOT just that we need to get from A to B.
      Getting from A to B is what the Fit and Prius do, and seem to do well.

      But really, this is the Passion About Cars, isn’t it?
      Otherwise we would spend more time discussing delivery vans and bread trucks, all of which do better jobs with function.

      So to me the Fit is more function than joy or style.

      I do not want to have one just so I can feel functional.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      If you love driving, you’re inside the car. Therefore you don’t need to like the way a car looks. It sounds as if you love driving AND having beautiful possessions. Maybe the Fit doesn’t. (doesn’t fit, get it? -ha, ha!).

  • avatar
    tedward

    I’d also like to add that if Honda makes the Civic any heavier they will need forced induction or direct injection to stay competitive. They don’t want to fall into the Toyota/Chevy camp, where test drives only serve to push customers towards other brands.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Anyone got a 5 yr.sales graph for the Civic and its competitors? (Corolla, Focus, Mazda3, etc.)?

    If they aren’t losing market share, and are making money on the current Civic, then taking a year to get the details right on a new, smaller Civic is the way to go….in fact, a year ago, I suggested that the way for Honda to reverse the bloat was the next time a new Civic was due, to make it smaller…then they have room to make the next Accord smaller…

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    If I’m not mistaken the Civic is not only the #1 seller in its segment it’s also the best selling car in the country or second best. At that rate a one year delay for the new one shouldn’t be much of a problem.

    To each his own but I’ve always thought the current model was ugly, not that I wouldn’t buy one but the styling to me is a big negative.

    Honda needs to remember in the case of the Civic the reason so many people buy them is they want a car that size not a larger one.

  • avatar

    I was going to trade my 2005 Civic sedan on a 2009 Civic sedan last year but found the following design problems:
    -new dash layout is stupid, simple analog is best
    -loss of headroom particularly in rear (6’2″ yet comfortable in rear of 2005 but couldn’t straighten up in 2009)
    -prefer roll down windows and less gadgets
    -weak braking on 2009 (severe fading)
    -new engine and transmission seem whiney and hard shifting

    I think a re-design closer in size to the 2001-2005 era’s size would suit most buyer’s better.

    • 0 avatar
      Equinox

      Guess it’s different for each person. I find it a lot easier to keep track of speed on the digital display. I never have sat in the rear seats of my car so it doesnt matter. And honestly, the K20Z3 engine and the transmission is one of the smoothest I have seen!!

  • avatar
    tced2

    How about just coming out with a new Civic that is same size but weighs less? for better fuel economy, better handling, performance.
    Next thing we’ll be hearing is that it needs a V6. Like the TSX, adding a V6 adds weight and spoils handling. Acura had a perfectly good V6 car already – the TL.
    Make new models lighter.

    • 0 avatar
      jacksonbart

      Yeah they could build it out of aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber for only a modest 200% increase in price.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      And with a 6 speed and diesel.

      And it’s about time that they went back to double-wish bone suspension and switched to rear wheel drive. I’ve got money burnin’ up my damned pockets waiting for Honda to come to their senses!

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      Front-wheel drive gets you better space utilization over rear-wheel drive. For a given sized car, you can get more usable space out of front-wheel drive. FWD is not a conspiracy by the auto manufacturers – its just the facts of space. Honda has managed to make a FWD car that has decent handling – one of the key reasons is weight distribution.
      Advancing the state of the art, requires setting a goal and working towards it. Don’t just look at what has worked in the past to save weight….think of some new things. Good hard engineering. Leadership in an industry gets you. A better product. More sales. Profits.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      @tced2:

      I think you may have missed the joke in srogers post. He threw just about every buzzword out there except ‘wagon”.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Nobody sees the Civic delay as a reaction to the underwhelming new Insight?


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